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Dusty books transformed into art at the Vail Library

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Special to the DailyThese two pages are from one of Susan Mackin Dolan's altered books, an Audubon book.
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When a library book earns “dusty book” status, which, according to Town Librarian Lori Ann Barnes, means it hasn’t circulated in a year or more, it gets “withdrawn” or “weeded.” In its after-shelf life, it is offered up at the annual book sale. If it fails to find a new home, it might hit the rummage sale circuit. And then, who knows its fate?

There is a happy alternate ending, however: On Monday, master printmaker Susan Mackin Dolan will lead an “Altered Books Workshop” at the Vail Library.

“When a book ostensibly loses its popularity, it can yet be treated as an object … an object of art,” Mackin Dolan said.



The workshop is a collaboration of the Vail Symposium and the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places, with support from the Town of Vail, in honor of the library’s month-long, 25th anniversary celebration.

In the workshop, Mackin Dolan will teach students how to make a type of artist book called an “altered book.” In this art form, an artist takes a book that already exists and transforms it. Words can be painted over, isolated or even cut away to change their meaning; pages can be cut or ripped; objects can be glued in. Techniques of transformation are limited solely by the imagination.



An intriguing idea put forth by Mackin Dolan is to create an artist or personal journal.

“You can open it up, find a page that inspires you, either because of the picture or a subject that catches your eye, and then you play around with pencils, paintbrushes, scissors and the words on the page.

“You can then pick it up and come back to it, like a journal. It’s a document of that day and what you’re thinking,” she said.



Mackin Dolan visited the library’s storage room to hand-select books for the class. Books caught her eye “either for interesting photos or illustrations, their shape or size, or variation. Even kids’ books and an atlas.” Participants will select a book and then choose from a hodgepodge of materials that Mackin Dolan will provide: acrylic paints, rubber stamps, ink, brushes, handmade paper scraps, stencils, colored pencils, crayons and more.

“It’s truly mixed media,” Mackin Dolan said. She highly recommends bringing personal objects, scraps of paper, ticket stubs, postcards … even junk. Some participants, she suggested, might even consider making the book into a “shrine” of objects.

Mackin Dolan received an MFA in printmaking and papermaking from University of Colorado Boulder. Her work is exhibited and collected internationally. She is often found working in her studio in Edwards.

The workshop will help showcase the Vail Library’s month-long celebration, themed “The Artful Nature of the Word.” The workshop takes place in the Community Room of the Vail Library on Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The fee (including materials), is $40 for adults and accompanied children over 12. To reserve a spot, contact the Vail Symposium at 970-476-0954. Space is limited.

What: Altered Books Workshop with Susan Mackin Dolan.

Where: Vail Library.

When: Monday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $40 for adults and accompanied children over 12.

More information: Reserve a spot by calling 970-476-0954.


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